An ItsTheReal Interview
Eric and Jeff Rosenthal are ItsTheReal, and they have a mixtape out today.
Okay, so how would you explain ItsTheReal to someone who has no idea who you are?
ERIC: You mean like half our family tree?
JEFF: I’m Jeff. That’s Eric. Collectively, we’re ItsTheReal. We used to describe ourselves as two idiots with a camera, but now I guess we’re just two idiots at the moment. For the past six years or so, we’ve called ourselves ‘hip-hop sketch comedians.’ It’s a niche.
ERIC: We’ve filled the internet with a ton of content, from sketch videos, to longform interviews on our Hypemen podcast with Jensen Karp, and our ridiculous short interviews that we did for MTV and Bonnaroo.
JEFF: And now we’re rappers, which — weirdly — our Grandma understands better than anything we’ve done before.
OMG look at you guys in this screengrab. Your hands!
JEFF: Yes, hip-hop sketch comedy can take quite a toll.
And you have a mixtape coming out today. A comedy hip hop mixtape. When should people listen to it?
ERIC: I want people to listen to it in 1987, on a boombox on the subway, because we make rebellious music.
JEFF: I don’t want to say we’re exactly like Public Enemy, so … we’re not. People should listen to our mixtape today, tomorrow, in a house, with a mouse, in a box, with a fox, on the stairs, with some pears. Ever since we started rapping, I just can’t stop!
There’s this video with Maino (lyrics NSFW) which is catchy AND funny. Is it supposed to be closer to the “good music” or “funny comedy” end of your spectrum? Or is it a perfect and flawless embodiment of both?
ERIC: Perfect and flawless … we still talking about our hands?
JEFF: That also goes for ‘funny comedy’ and ‘good music.’ But back to your question, “Beef Wit Us” probably sells our mission best: for the longest time, we’ve been dancing around rap culture, commenting on and roasting tropes, and now we’re breaking down the fourth wall and becoming rappers. And no one’s better suited for our brand of comedy than Maino. For a first single, a first video, we needed a strong visual joke to sell what we were trying to do.
ERIC: It’s essentially like an original Blues Brothers for hip-hop, in that it walks that fine line between good music and funny comedy.
Who are you guys? In case you didn’t answer it in the first question.
ERIC: I’m a tall, Jewish kid originally from the suburbs who loved and studied hip-hop and comedy concurrently growing up, and after college, very much against our parents’ wishes, I put those two things into action by devising a weekly video series online with my brother Jeff (who I believe you met in the first question) that would hilariously comment on the goings-on in the hip-hop and greater musical world. And here we are 280-something weeks later! Also, I went to the 2005 Grammys with Kanye West, my favorite movies are The Big Lebowski and All The President’s Men, and I dislike coconut, pickles, and sloppy joes.
JEFF: I’m a taller Jewish kid originally from the suburbs who…Eric, you don’t like sloppy joes? I make a lot of playlists on Spotify; my favorite Tumblr at the moment is Baseball Card Vandals. I go to a lot of hip-hop concerts, and had an existential crisis when I was on the #RihannaPlane and not eating/sleeping/seeing daylight for Rolling Stone.
ERIC: Beyond that, a man, a plan, Panama.
Jeff, how tall are you?
JEFF: The girls who work the registers at Westside Market, my grocery store, ask me that all the time. I tell them “too tall” and they laugh and laugh.
Who are some of your favorite rappers at the moment?
JEFF: I like a lot of people at the moment, but in terms of new guys, up-and-comers, I like Bodega Bamz, A$AP Ferg, Young Scooter, ScHoolboy Q. Most of the time, though, I listen to shiny-suit raps from like, 1997. I spend a lot of time listening to like, Ma$e, Biggie and Mo Thugs’ song, “All Good,” which is great.
What are some of your favorite plants at the moment?
ERIC: The Record Plant in Los Angeles. I’ve heard good things about the Donut Plant, but I haven’t been.
JEFF: Rappers love geraniums.
What was your last meal?
ERIC: I made pork chops, cous cous, and roasted asparagus last night for me and my brothers. WE LIVIN’ HEALTHY UP HERE.
JEFF: We’ve been on this press run for our mixtape, and someone asked us what our final meal would be, and I was so tired and hungry that I didn’t know how to answer (and Eric had already said barbeque), so I just babbled on about dessert. I didn’t mean it. I would rather have Dinosaur BBQ.
How cool are you on a scale of 1 to 1,000?
ERIC: Um, have you met us? If not, see the first question.
JEFF: SO YEAH, PRETTY COOL.
Who’s cooler than you?
JEFF: ICE COLD!
ERIC: I hope people get that.
JEFF: Edith, link them anyway (?)
[Don’t tell me what to do!] If people like you after this interview, what should they do?
JEFF: Buy us cookies! See, I do like dessert.
Top photo by Lauren Farmer.